This Week in Ford Racing July 29, 2003 NASCAR Busch Series Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Taurus, weathered some early-season misfortune to claw his way back in the NASCAR Busch Series points race, and as the series heads to Indianapolis...
This Week in Ford Racing
July 29, 2003
NASCAR Busch Series
Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Taurus, weathered some early-season misfortune to claw his way back in the NASCAR Busch Series points race, and as the series heads to Indianapolis Raceway Park this weekend, Keller finds himself in third place, 50 points behind ppc Racing teammate Scott Riggs. Keller spoke about the turnaround in his season, and the distractions that can be caused by a slow start.
JASON KELLER-57-Albertsons Ford Taurus -
YOU HAVE QUIETLY MOVED BACK INTO STRIKING DISTANCE OF THE POINTS LEAD, SIMILAR TO WHAT GREG BIFFLE DID LAST SEASON. DO YOU THINK SOME PEOPLE FORGOT ABOUT YOU?
"I hope so. I hope they're not paying attention. Greg and I were testing in Chicago together and he's was getting on me because I wasn't leading the points and I said, 'I'm going to do what you and Randy Goss did last year. We're just going to kind of lay back - not that we've laid back intentionally - and then come out of nowhere in the second half.' Things are going good. We've seemed to have gotten our program better and the guys are doing fantastic on pit road. Sure, I'd love to have a 400-point lead right now, but nobody has so at least we have a shot at it. I've said for the last three months that one, maybe two people were going to get their act together and pull away, but that hasn't been the case. There are still eight to 10 guys well within the points race. We just have to stay strong and keep going and when it does get tough the last third of the season, hopefully we can be one of the guys that has a chance. The way it is right now, one bad race can really put you behind, and hopefully we don't have that soon."
IS IT COINCIDENCE THAT YOUR RESURGENCE CAME WITH THE SPLIT IN THE SCHEDULE WITH THE WINSTON CUP SERIES?
"I think so. In the beginning of the year we felt that we were going to have a strong race team, but we had some new guys on pit road. You can look at a lot of different thing on this race team, but I just think it's coming together better right now. Hopefully when we get back into having the Winston Cup guys, the swing where we race with each other, hopefully we can show them that our race team has gotten better. If our race team hasn't gotten better or stronger, it's our own fault. Hopefully we use the summer months to our advantage and we made our race team better. I think we have, but only time will tell if that's the true deal."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT FOR A DRIVER TO STAY FOCUSED WHEN PEOPLE START TO QUESTION A TEAM'S PERFORMANCE?
"I look at the Winston Cup guys that have to go through that all the time. There are so many predictions made in the off-season about who's going to contend for the championship, who should do what and who's going to do what. I really don't put a lot of validity in that. It really doesn't bother me. I rarely turn on my computer and the more I read stuff on the Internet, the more I read stuff in the newspapers, sometimes it gets under your skin. When it's kinda going bad I just lay low and don't read as much as I probably need to. Look at veteran guys. Dale Jarrett is a prime example. Is he less of a race-car driver this year? No, he's still a great race-car driver, but sometimes it doesn't go your way. You just have to stay strong. I think our race team, we all knew that no matter how hard we practiced and how hard we prepared over the off-season it was still going to be tough; it wasn't going to be easy. People were predicting that it was going to be easier than we felt like it was. I felt like our guys had the right mindset going into the year, that we need to buckle down because there are some race teams, some great driver-crew chief combinations that are out there. It's wasn't going to be as easy as people were predicting in the off-season. I think if we had predicted it to be easy it would have been one thing, but we knew it was going to be hard and it's going to continue to be hard."
IS IT EVER THE DRIVER'S RESPONSIBILITY TO CALL A TEAM MEETING TO DISCUSS PERFORMANCE OR IS THAT THE JOB OF THE CREW CHIEF?
"I've traveled a lot with the guys over the summer here and we talk about it a lot. We talk about what's going good and we talk about what's going bad. We talk about what I can do different, so there's numerous things. One good thing at ppc Racing is that we let people express themselves. They let me express myself and I let them express themselves. We have, I wouldn't say formal meetings often, but we talk a lot. I talk with the crew guys at the race track, and that allows me to see what they're thinking, what they feel we're doing right and what they feel we can do better. It's worked. We didn't try to reinvent the wheel, but we knew there were some new guys on pit road and we've given them adequate time to prove themselves and they're stepping up to the plate. I'm excited about things to come. There are some race tracks that we go to twice that I didn't run good at the first time around. It's not like we're on a roll and it's going to be easy the rest of the season. We know that. We know that we're coming up to some tracks that typically I run well at, and I didn't run good at in the spring. Hopefully we can go and maybe test at one or two of those race tracks and do better."
IS THERE ONE SPECIFIC THING THAT HAS ALLOWED PPC RACING TO PUT TOGETHER A SUCCESSFUL TWO-CAR OPERATION, ESPECIALLY WITH THE CHANGES OVER THE PAST TWO SEASONS WITH THE NO. 10 CAR?
"I think it's just people. There is some inter-team competition; I'd be lying to say there's not. We also want each other to do well. If I win a race, it's our ppc Racing team that gets a share of the bonus, it's not just the 57 team or the 10 team. That's how Greg Pollex has structured everything. Doug Randolph was a blessing in disguise. Harold Holly was a big asset that we lost last year, and Doug has stepped in with a different management criteria. It wasn't that Harold's was right, Doug's is just different. There's no right or wrong way, and everyone accepted him in and it's worked well for us. There are a lot of different ways to skin a cat. It's a great combination."
WITH THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON UNDERWAY, WHAT DO YOU FORESEE AS FAR AS THE POINTS RACE GOING INTO HOMESTEAD?
"I have said it for the last two to three months that someone is going their act together and pull away. It seems like one team will gets its act together for two or three races and then they'll fall off. I honestly think that what it's going to take is consistency throughout the rest of the year. You're not going to be able to gain 100 points on a guy in a given weekend. I think there's going to be too many people that will really be on their game, and I will be surprised if there's not more than two people that are in the championship fight at the end of the year."